We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Lei Lani and I are blessed with four kids, the oldest and the youngest, girls, and the middle two, boys. From the time they began school, we always told them it was their responsibility to stand up and protect their siblings--especially the older ones and most especially the boys. (Please don't send me hate mail about assuming boys should protect girls!) Sadly, many times we would have to remind them in "strong terms" that when they heard other students ridiculing their siblings or when they saw them making poor decisions, it was THEIR role to step up and protect their brother or sister. Instead of joining in the conversation, they should be shutting down the negative conversation! Instead of ignoring their sibling's choices, they needed to challenge them to reconsider their choices. (This second one came more into play as the older two attended the same college away from home.) We always emphasized how important it was that, regardless of whatever was happening, our kids knew that their brothers or sisters were there to support them when they needed it!
As parents, hopefully, this scenario makes perfect sense. So why then do we struggle with this so much as Believers; protecting and caring for those who are "weaker" than us--either less mature and making poor decisions or struggling with a temporary (or long-term) burden? As Pastor Paul has mentioned several times in his sermons on Romans, the Apostle Paul is writing to a church in Rome where Jewish and Gentile Believers are not working in harmony. The Jews are judging the "secular" Gentiles for not holding to Jewish traditions and continuing in Roman practices, while the Gentiles are judging the "uptight" Jews for unnecessarily holding to the Law. While addressing these differences elsewhere in his letter, here, Paul is challenging both groups to view themselves as being in a position of strength to help their brothers and sisters in their walk with Christ--showing love, encouragement, and harmony.
As we see our fellow Believers struggling with the burdens of the world--or even the burdens of their own poor choices--let's remember our "obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves". We should do this because we're commanded to do it. But, if that's too easy to forget, then perhaps, we can be motivated by the reality that, tomorrow, we might be the "weak" needing bearing up.